Imagine drawing something on the computer. It could be anything: your name, a figurine or a phone cover, for instance.
Now click print. What if whatever you drew came out as a fully functional 3-D model?
As unbelievable as that might seem, it was reality for several students on Wednesday, who personalized and printed their own keychains with a 3-D printer.
The New Hope Academy Charter School students came together for a seminar at 3Delivered, a 3-D printing company based at York College's J. D. Brown Center for Entrepreneurship. The company, founded in 2011, has partnered with the college for just over a year.
And the technology is growing more and more each day, said CEO Chris Rodak.
"We can print things that actually cannot be manufactured any other way," he said.
Hands-on learning: Students were absorbed in the task from start to finish, mapping out their rectangular keychains through SketchUp, a 3-D modeling program, before watching a printer layer slices of chartreuse plastic to make their creations.
Aspiring software engineer Manny Tellado, 17, a junior at New Hope, attended the seminar for the second time.
"It's really cool," he said of 3-D printing. "I'm just interested in how this will evolve over time."
And first-timer Zavier Vega, 12, was simply curious about the process.
"I just wanted to find out how this looked and wanted to participate," the seventh-grader said.
The school's tech club, Batteries Not Included, will be getting its own 3-D printer in about a month or so, said assistant director of information technology Marcus Richardson. The club does a little bit of everything, from creating digital music to developing a modification for "Minecraft." It even plans to build a Raspberry Pi, a credit-card sized computer.
It's important for students to work digitally - after all, everyone can download an app, but very few can actually create one, Richardson said.
"They use (technology) every day, but a lot of them don't understand it," he said.
Mentors: The 3-D printer that made the keychains was built by 20-year-old Matt Woods, a junior at Penn State. The Spring Garden Township native is majoring in mechanical engineering and works at 3Delivered during the summer.
Woods first learned of 3-D printing at York Suburban High School, and that early exposure was enough to encourage him to learn more, he said.
"It opens your eyes," he said. "It's really inspiring."
And learning about growing technologies is a great tool to have as a young student, said Kyle Williams, 20, a computer information systems major and 3Delivered intern who helped with the seminar.
"It's nice to be ahead of the curve," the York College senior said.
-Reach Mollie Durkin at firstname.lastname@example.org.